Headlines: May 25th, 2005

The number of offenders being recalled to prison after being released on licence has more than trebled in the last five years and is set to increase further according to a report today from the Prison Reform Trust, which is calling for a review of the standards for breach of licence conditions and more support to help offenders to stay in the community.The report, “Recycling Offenders Through Prison”, says the dramatic rise in people being returned to jail is one of the hidden factors behind the rising prison population. Such prisoners, it says, make up nearly ten per cent of the inmates in some local prisons.

The study, which is supported by the Hadley Trust, says the rise in recalls is not due to prisoners on licence committing further crimes but is a result of tougher enforcement by the Probation Service. Most of those who are recalled, the report claims, have failed to comply with requirements, such as attending Probation appointments. It adds that the numbers being returned to prison are expected to continue rising steeply with the provisions in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, introduced in April, They will mean many prisoners released from jail having served half their sentences will remain under supervision in the community for the rest of their time. This, the report predicts, will see an increasing number of ex-prisoners being recycled through a revolving prison door.

“Recycling Offenders Through Prison” lists a number of problems that recalled prisoners have to face and details challenges for prison staff working with them. Offenders, it says, are recalled to prison, but not told about the reasons. There are also delays in transferring information, which means offenders are unable to make prompt representations against their recall. At the same time prison staff are overstretched and hard pressed to provide appropriate legal advice and support. In many prisons there is no sentence planning for recalled prisoners to make constructive use of their return to custody and as a result they are simply being warehoused.

The report calls for a review of the national standards for breach of licence conditions and more support to help offenders access help to stay in the community and lead law-abiding lives. It also urges improvements in the transfer of information and access to legal advice, support, induction arrangements, assessment and sentence planning for prisoners who are recalled to custody.

The Director of the Prison Reform Trust, Juliet Lyon, said the current system for recall set people up to fail and the Home Office would do better in meeting its aim of preventing re-offending if it ensured people leaving the closed world of prison got sustained support and supervision to help them resettle in the community.